Our wildcamping spot right next to a lovely lake in Lappeenranta turned out to be perfect. We were joined by four other motorhomes as the evening wore on. As I was sitting looking out of the open door, only a few feet from the lake, a pair of Great Crested Grebes swam past and one of them had at least two chicks riding on its back, which is a characteristic of the breed, but not something I have ever seen before.
After a quiet night we decided to explore Lappeenranta this morning, which was only a short walk from our overnight spot. It turned out that there was not much worthwhile to look at. It is a pretty enough town sitting on the edge of the beautiful and huge Lake Saimaa. But it is very much a tourist town. There is a nice boardwalk along the lake and there is even what is known as a fortress, but which in reality is some buildings a hundred or so years old set behind some earthworks. The ubiquitous international food market was in town, something which visits my home city several times a year. I talked to one of the women with the UK stall and it turns out she and her colleagues are all Dutch!
Finally Lappeenranta has, what is dubbed, the largest sandcastle in the world. They have it every year and I don’t know whether it really is the biggest, but it’s impressive. This year’s theme was “the future” and arranged around the sandcastle were numerous detailed sand sculptures illustrating the theme. It all looked like jiggery pokery to me, because I can’t see how sand can be formed into such shapes without some artificial assistance, but maybe I’m just an old cynic!
In summary Lappeenranta did not impress. It is clearly popular with Finns and you can spend a few days here doing lake cruises and wandering the waterfront, but it is not what we were looking for and so we quickly moved on.
We yet again headed north on the continually impressive Finnish roads, skirting the Russian border as we went. We checked out another ABC Petrol Station and bingo and full service point for motorhomes. Emptying point, fresh water, the lot. Very impressive.
Our next and final stop for the day was the Punkaharju National Park. Again it is in the heart of lakeland with water and forest as far as the eye can seen. At last the spectacular and beautiful scenery we were expecting. We called in at the Forest Museum in the park and picked up some hiking maps and also had it confirmed by one of the staff that we could park overnight in any of the National Park parking facilities. So we drove along the famous Punkaharju ridge, a sand ridge two hundred metres or so high, that bisects a lake and which is home to some unique fauna and flora.
We found a space in one of the official parking spaces (61.775739, 29.336224) and Basil has a great view through a few pine trees down to a lake about fifty metres below us. Sarah, the dogs and I went for a walk around an adjacent peninsular, but I’m still not a big fan of forest walks – where are the views! The dogs loved being off the lead and of course Mabel could not resist a few visits into the lake.
On our return to Basil I had yet another set back in my attempt to get Basil serviced. A man who I have been in communication with for the past three days and who had given me every indication that he would be able to service Basil, suddenly told me that he could not fit it in! So more phoning round. Eventually a very helpful service manager from the north of Finland rang me back and within five minutes had me booked in for 12th July. Why couldn’t any of the nearly twenty other Fiat dealers have been even one tenth as helpful. At least that is not sorted – I hope!!!
Although we have barely started in Finland we are already 62 degrees north. I surprised when I looked on the map that we are already north of Shetland Islands, Bergen and Stockholm. When I woke up a midnight yesterday it was still dusk. Although the sun goes below the horizon it never really goes dark. We thought this might unnerve the dogs sleeping patterns, but at the moment they are both sleeping their normal hours.